- Russia Opens New Front in U.S. Rivalry With Taliban Support. Russia and the U.S. are increasingly sparring over Afghanistan, adding to rapidly souring ties between the Kremlin and President Donald Trump’s administration. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has voiced alarm at Russia’s actions in Afghanistan, where it’s been cultivating links with the Taliban amid a campaign waged by the terrorist group against Afghan and NATO forces. His comments come as local Afghan officials and a former Taliban commander say there is evidence Russia is supplying arms to the insurgents. U.S. officials won’t go that far in public, but U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel has told a congressional panel that Russia was probably providing the group with weapons.
- China H Shares Slide to One-Month Low Amid Regulation Worries. Chinese shares traded in Hong Kong slumped to their lowest in more than a month amid concern China may ramp up oversight of financial markets and as geopolitical risks linger. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell 0.9 percent at the close. China Galaxy Securities Co. was among the biggest decliners, while China Life Insurance Co. retreated to its lowest price since Feb. 6. The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.7 percent to 24,088.46, and the Shanghai Composite Index reversed losses in the afternoon to advance 0.6 percent.
- Complacent No More: Hedging Costs Jump in Europe’s Stock Market. (graph) With less than two weeks to go before the first round of French presidential elections, investors are racing to protect gains that have pushed the region’s shares to their highest prices in more than a year. The cost of hedging against declines in the Euro Stoxx 50 Index has surged to its highest level since the U.K. referendum on European Union membership, rebounding from near a 15-month low in just a little more than a week. Even as equities have remained stable, a gauge tracking volatility expectations has climbed for 10 straight days, the longest streak since November.
- Euro Volatility Spread Steepens to Record High on France: Chart. Investors are showing increasing concern before the French presidential elections, with market complacency giving way to extreme cautiousness. The spread between one-month and one-week implied volatilities on the euro versus the dollar closed at a record high of 6.35 percentage points on Monday, as near-term risks remain subdued and focus is almost solely placed on the chance that anti-euro candidate Marine Le Pen wins the race.
- European Stocks Steady as Real Estate Rally Offsets Tech Slump. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost less than 0.1 percent at the close after swinging between a 0.3 percent gain and a 0.5 percent decline. Banks fell to a one-month low, while Dialog Semiconductor Plc led technology shares to the worst drop in the broader index after Bankhaus Lampe warned that Apple Inc. may cut back on its use of the company’s chips.
- Clean Energy Investment Drops 17% as China and U.S. Scale Back. Clean-energy investment fell 17 percent in the first quarter, keeping pace with last year’s decline, as the U.S. and China both scaled back support for wind and solar farms. The $53.6 billion funneled into projects such as renewable energy, efficiency and electric cars during the first three months of the year marked the lowest investment for the quarter since 2013, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A surge in financing for large offshore wind projects at the start of last year wasn’t repeated in 2017.
Wall Street Journal:
- Lending for Commercial Property Falls as Investors Pull Back. Lenders closed roughly $491 billion of mortgage loans in 2016, down 3% from 2015.
- Congressmen Warn Venezuela Default Could Lead to Russian Control of U.S. Oil Infrastructure. PdVSA owes Rosneft $1.5 billion; its Citgo unit has most foreign ownership of America’s domestic refinery capacity.
- Saudi Arabia Wants OPEC to Extend Production Cuts. Saudi support is essential for renewal of agreement, though Iran and Russia are question marks.
- Donald Trump Promises ‘Pleasant Surprises’ on Nafta in Session With CEOs. President declined to give specifics about changes to trade pact; he also said he wants to overhaul government’s computers.
- China car-sales growth slows in March. Growth in China's car sales slowed sharply in March, illustrating the effects of a higher sales tax on the world's biggest car market. Sales of vehicles, excluding those typically used for commercial purposes, grew 1.7% to 2.1 million units in March from a year earlier, the government-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Tuesday. This marked a slowdown from the 6.3% growth in the first two months of the year. By comparison, sales grew nearly 10% in March 2016 from the previous year. South Korean manufacturers suffered from the fallout of a continuing political dispute between Beijing and Seoul over the latter's deployment of a missile-defense system--a step the Chinese government has vehemently opposed. The dispute has led to the boycotting of Korean products by many Chinese consumers, hitting sales of Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. in China in March, analysts say.
- Trump just made another move that will anger Russia. President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved the addition of Montenegro to NATO, a move that's likely to anger Russia, which opposes the expansion of the alliance.